Faculty Corner – Lisa Skultety

1.  Please tell us a little about yourself?

I am originally from the Chicago area and then taught middle and high school math in Houston, Texas. Most recently, I am coming from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I moved here with my husband, son, and two dogs. We are excited to be here in Arkansas where we can regularly take out our kayaks or bikes and go explore. I enjoy hiking, baking, reading, and crafting.

2.  Tell us about the courses that you would like to teach at UCA?

Currently I am teaching courses in elementary math content for future elementary school teachers as well as a graduate course in our M.A. program. In the coming semesters, I will also be teaching courses in the STEMTeach program with our secondary math preservice teachers. I enjoy teaching courses to future and current teachers about what it means for students to engage in mathematics and how we as teachers can facilitate that learning.

3.  Tell us a little about your research?

Grounded in my experience as a teacher, my research is concerned with how math teachers notice and engage with students’ mathematical thinking. Specifically, I am interested in how teachers notice students’ mathematical thinking and their subsequent use of that thinking in their instructional choices. This research extends to a general interest in teacher education through both university-based teacher preparation programs and practicing teachers. I work with supporting preservice teachers to hone their ability to notice students’ mathematical thinking as well as in professional development settings where I collaborate with practicing teachers to support noticing of our students’ thinking in classrooms.

4.  Can you give us an example of an application of this research?

As the facilitator in classrooms where students are actively engaging with mathematics, it is challenging to understand and act on students’ thinking in-the-moment. It takes being able to recognize the math concepts that students are using as well as interpreting what they might be thinking through their work or conversations. My research has identified ways to support elementary preservice teachers in increasing their ability to notice students’ thinking by using video clips to “practice” noticing along with increasing their content knowledge.

5.  What is your favorite part of your transition to UCA?

While there are many things that I have enjoyed about being at UCA, I think I have liked working with the students the most. I have found the students to be engaged, self-motivated, and a joy to work with. I enjoy being a part of preservice teachers’ journeys as they realize that they can work towards becoming exceptional math teachers.

6.  What is the most challenging part of  your transition to UCA?

With local education often being quite state-dependent, it has been a challenge to move from out of state and quickly get up to speed with the math education landscape here in Arkansas. Along with that, familiarizing myself with the various programs, licenses, and such has been an adjustment.

Faculty Corner – Mrs. Hailey Hurley

 1.  Please tell us a little about yourself?

I am a product of UCA! I was an undergraduate student here from 2009-2013, and then a graduate teaching assistant from 2014-2016. I have been teaching at the high school level for 3 years, but I have been teaching for 6 years total. I got married in November 2017 and we currently live in Maumelle, Arkansas. I am addicted to traveling – 12 countries and counting! I bake – get ready for a bunch of cakes and stuff in the break room. I love Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, so I’m up for a discussion on that any time. And I love board games, especially Settlers of Catan!

  1. Tell us about the courses that you would like to teach at UCA?

I would like to teach calculus-focused courses, but I also enjoy teaching courses such as College Algebra, Quantitative Literacy, and Trigonometry.

  1. What are your teaching philosophies?

My teaching philosophy is that anyone can learn math, even if they are not very passionate about the subject. My job as an educator is to help students realize their potential and give them the proper tools and support to reach their goals. If students have a hard time understanding a problem, I try to think of 3 or 4 new ways to explain or approach the problem. It’s all about meeting students where they are at, and bringing them up to the level where they need to be.

  1. What is your favorite part of your transition to UCA?

My favorite part of transitioning back to UCA is being able to see all my old professors and be in my old classrooms again. UCA feels like home to me, so it was really easy to come back and be part of it all again!

  1. What is the most challenging part of your transition to UCA?

The most challenging part is remembering that I am a faculty member now, and that I am not a student (or grad student). Mostly I have to remember to call my fellow colleagues by their first names, because it seems strange to be so informal!

  1. What are your future goals or plans?  

I hope to pursue a PhD at some point. I don’t have those plans figured out yet, but I can foresee that I will pursue something like that in the future.



Faculty Corner – Dr. Yeil Kwon

Last fall Dr. Yeil Kwon joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in data science. He received his Ph.D. in statistics from Temple University.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself.

My academic background is Statistics. I earned BS/MS in Statistics from Korea University, MS in Operations Research from Columbia University and PhD in Statistics from Temple University. I have worked for 9 years as a quantitative analyst at credit bureau, insurance company and hedge fund in South Korea and United States. I worked on mostly developing mathematical/statistical modeling for predicting specific events based on the financial data.

(2) Tell us about the courses that you would like to teach at UCA.

I am teaching three courses in Fall 2018. Introduction to Probability Theory covers core theories on probability, random variable and probability distribution functions. The highlight of this course is the limit theorems of random variables, which are used for a number of applications in data analysis. Another course is Statistical Methods, which includes basic topics on probability and statistical inference with R. This course provides students with general understanding of statistics and some applications of data analysis.

(3) Tell us a little about your research.

My main research interest is developing methods for simultaneous estimation under empirical Bayes framework. In particular, I am working on the variance estimation problem with high dimensional data under arbitrary prior assumption. High dimensional data analysis is one of the popular topics in modern data science area, but it is well known as a quite challenging problem. Empirical Bayesian methods can be one of the alternatives for approaching this topic and I proposed a new method for simultaneous variance estimation based on the empirical distribution function of the marginal distribution based on the data with a number of populations.

(4) Can you give us an example of an application of this research?

One of the representative example of the high dimensional data is microarray gene expression data. Finding the difference of gene expressions on DNA is one of the crucial problem in bioinformatics or genetics. While it includes very large number of parameters to estimate, the sample size of each population is extremely small. It means we do not have sufficient information on the parameter in each population. Using the empirical Bayesian methods, we can obtain much better estimator for each parameter by using the information across the populations.

(5) What is your favorite part of your transition to UCA?

I have precious opportunities to communicate with a plenty of faculty members having different academic and cultural background. It really helps me, in various ways, not only to extend my point of view on the issues of the ongoing research but to guide the students in my class.

(6) What is the most challenging part of your transition to UCA?

I have lived in the Northeastern part of the United States for a long time and I am adjusting me to the life style of the Southern part of United States. I like the atmosphere of Arkansas, but since I am kind of sensitive to the change of the environment, it takes longer time to get used to new place than other people.

Faculty Corner – Dr. Yinlin Dong

This fall Dr. Yinlin Dong joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in applied mathematics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself.
I did my undergraduate in China, where I worked in industry for two years. After that I came to the States and have been at the University of Alabama, University of Central Florida, and the University of Texas at Arlington. I live with my wife and two sons, Charles and Allen, and am now excited to join the family here at UCA!

(2) Tell us a little about your research.
I study numerical methods and grid generation. For example, there are methods for discretizing partial differential equations and solving them numerically. This discretization requires working on a grid of some sort, and I study how these grids should be constructed. A good grid allows solution methods to adapt to complex structures: the grid is fine in regions of large variation to enhance accuracy, but can be coarse where the solution has little variation in order to achieve efficiency.

(3) Can you give us an example of an application of this research?
One great example is in airfoils. NASA designs many of these, and they need to determine exactly how to shape them. In order to find the best shape, they need to solve physics problems and use numerical methods. My research applies to identifying the appropriate numerical method and corresponding grid generation approach to these problems.

(4) When did you become interested in your research?
Throughout school I knew I was going to focus on some kind of science or math. I had a particular high school teacher that really helped inspire me; ultimately it was my Ph.D. advisor that helped guide me into the field of numerical methods.

(5) Tell us about the courses you teach.
I teach both numerical analysis and numerical methods. Though sometimes confused with each other, numerical analysis is more theoretical and focuses on why methods work, while numerical methods focuses more on how such methods work. Right now being my first semester I’ve tried to keep my courses straightforward. In the future I hope to be able to get students involved more in projects and presentations.

(6) What is your favorite part of your position here at UCA?
Teaching is one of the best parts! I enjoy the moments of sharing the beauty of math with students. The environment here is quite flexible, and I’m still exploring the surrounding area.

(7) What is the most challenging part of your position here at UCA?
I have high expectation in student learning in upper level courses. But some students do not turn in assignments on time and are reluctant to ask questions. How do they expect to learn without putting their skills to practice? I am learning our students and our course settings. I will figure it out as the semester goes.


Faculty Corner – Dr. Todd Abel

This fall Dr. Todd Abel joined the mathematics department as an assistant professor in mathematics education. He received his Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire.

(1) Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m from North Carolina and recently spent time at Appalachian State University before coming to my new home here at the University of Central Arkansas. My wife and three kids have been getting settled over the past few months and have really enjoyed the outdoor life in Arkansas. We’ve gotten to camp, hike, and float already and look forward to continuing to explore.

(2) Tell us a little about your research interests.
My research focuses on two areas. One is on the classroom implementation of mathematical modeling, and the other focuses on mathematical digital literacy: how to use digital tools for doing mathematics. Both of these are important topics for us to consider because the ways students use math is changing – it is essential to have creative and flexible thinking. And with many available tools, students need to be able to recognize what tools are useful for solving problems.

(3) Tell us about the courses you teach.
Right now I’m teaching three courses. Foundations of Mathematics is a graduate class for our M.A. program, which is targeted at preservice and inservice teachers. We look at mathematical reasoning, logic, set theory, number theory, the nature or mathematical work, and have a particular emphasis on what proofs are and how they work.
The undergraduate courses I’m teaching are History of Math, which covers a broad spectrum of topics from throughout time, and Project-Based Instruction. The latter course I am co-teaching with a faculty member from the STEMTeach program. This is a course in which students gain field experience in local schools before their fulltime internship.

(4) What is your favorite part of your position here at UCA?
I really enjoy facilitating students engaging with challenging math problems. It’s great to see students encounter meaningful problems to overcome and to watch them grow as they take on tougher and tougher challenges.

(5) What is the most challenging part of your position here at UCA?
There are a lot of programs and structures to learn, so figuring out what all the policies and procedures are has definitely been the most challenging part so far.

(6) Who has influenced your most in your life?
My family – my parents, brother, sister, and now my wife and kids. My parents taught me to appreciate learning; my teachers and Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Karen Graham, also influenced me professionally by helping guide me through my schooling and into my career.

(7) How do you like to spend your free time?
When not here I’m with my family at home, at church or somewhere in the woods.